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  1. Rays

So what are the Rays playing for in September?

Rays players celebrate a walkoff hit by Matt Duffy (5) in a 1-0 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
Rays players celebrate a walkoff hit by Matt Duffy (5) in a 1-0 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Sep. 1, 2018|Updated Sep. 1, 2018

CLEVELAND — We know what the Rays would like to be playing for over the final month of the season.

But while there is hope in the history of their 2011 season, when they rallied from nine games back on Sept. 3 with the help of the  collapsing Red Sox, to win the wild card, and some intriguing similarities, such as their 1-8 starts both years, it is obviously unlikely. (Unless the A's get on a chicken-and-beer binge anyway.)

Per fangraphs.com, the Rays entered September with just .1 percent chance of making it. That said, in addition to 2019 jobs and future salaries, here are some other team and individual things they can aim for, all stats going into play Saturday:

Squad goals

Winning something

Based on their 71-63 (.530) record , here is what it will take to meet these team targets:

  • 81-81, best record in Kevin Cash’s four season: 10-18 (.357)
  • 82-80, first winning record since 2013: 11-17: (.393)
  • 90-72, sixth 90-win season in 11 years as Rays: 19-9 (.679)
Record opening

The 656 1/3 innings relief innings thrown by the Rays through Friday's 134th game were not only most in the majors this season, 134 2/3 more than the Padres, but just shy of the all-time record for a season, 657 by the 2012 Rockies.

Individual achievements

The Big 2-0

LHP Blake Snell took the mound Saturday with 16 wins and potentially five more starts. It will take some work, and some breaks, but he could make a run at joining 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price as the only 20-game winners in franchise history. The most Ws:

  1. David Price, 2012         20
  2. David Price, 2010         19
  3. Matt Moore, 2013        17
  4. James Shields, 2011    16
  5. Blake Snell, 2018   16
The Big 3-0

1B/DH C.J. Cron had hit 16 homers in each of his three previous big-league seasons with the Angels, so swatting No. 17 on July 8 was an accomplishment. Joking that he doesn't "hate" round numbers, Cron entered Saturday with 25 and a shot to get to 30, and maybe crack the Rays top 10:

  1. Carlos Pena, 2007          46
  2. Carlos Pena, 2009          39
  3. Logan Morrison, 2017  38
  4. Evan Longoria, 2016     36
  5. Jose Canseco, 1999        34
  6. Aubrey Huff, 2003         34
  7. Evan Longoria, 2009    33
  8. Evan Longoria, 2013     32
  9. Fred McGriff, 1999       32
  10. Evan Longoria, 2011     31
  11. Carlos Pena, 2008         31
The .300 club

3B Matt Duffy has a chance to do something which shouldn't be so rare, the first qualifying Ray (3.1 plate appearance per team game, 502 for a full season) to hit .300 in seven years, since Casey Kotchman in 2011. The honor roll:

  1. Jason Bartlett, 2009       .320
  2. Carl Crawford, 2007       .315
  3. Aubrey Huff, 2003           .311
  4. Fred McGriff, 1999          .310
  5. Carl Crawford, 2010        .307
  6. Casey Kotchman, 2011   .306
  7. Carl Crawford, 2009       .305
  8. Carl Crawford, 2006       .305
  9. Carl Crawford, 2005       .301
  10. B.J. Upton, 2007               .300
Collecting Ws

Working primarily behind an opener, plus making six starts, has worked out well for LHP Ryan Yarbrough, who in his first big-league season leads all major-league rookies with 12 wins, and leads AL rookies with 124 2/3 innings and 109 strikeouts. Only one Rays pitcher won that AL rookie triple crown, Cuban defector Rolando Arrojo in 1998, with 14, 202 and 152. (Yarbrough ranks fourth among AL rookies with a 3.75 ERA.) Yarbrough also leads all major-league pitchers with 96 innings and 10 wins as a reliever. His nine relief innings of five or more innings are the most in a season since Bob Stanley made 11 for Boston in 1982.

A ‘complete’ game

RHP Sergio Romo, who worked as the opener the first two time the Rays did it an five overall, has pitched in every inning this season but the third. Manager Kevin Cash needs to make that happen.

Awards

The Rays have worthy candidates for four of the American League major postseason awards, but realistically not any winners:

CY YOUNG: LHP Blake Snell is having a tremendous season, ranking among the AL leaders with 16 wins, a 2.05 ERA and .179 opponents average. But this is his first time playing at that level, so there are going to be veterans given more credit, and votes, such as Cleveland's Corey Kluber, Boston's Chris Sale and Houston's Justin Verlander, plus, Cleveland's Trevor Bauer and Seattl e closer Edwin Diaz.

 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Going by WAR, the catch-all stat created to try to assign value to players based on the wins they add to their team, Rays INF/OF Joey Wendle is having the best season of all AL rookies, with a 3.4 WAR per baseball-reference.com and 2.4 per fangraphs.com. (The two sites use different criteria, the totals are cumulative.) But many of the other numbers, and much of the hype and attention, will favor Yankees INFs Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres and, even with his DL time, Angels RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani. A look:

Player, team                       Avg.   HR   RBI   OPS   WAR/B   WAR/F
Miguel Andujar, NYY      .303   23     79    .868     1.8          2.4
Shohei Ohtani, LAA         .276   15     43    .897     3.0*        2.9*
Gleyber Torres, NYY       .282   21     62    .858     2.8           2.1
Joey Wendle, TB               .289     9     64    .741     3.4           2.4
* Ohtani's breakdown is 1.8 as a hitter, 1.2 WAR/B, 1.1 WAR/F as a pitcher.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Votes are often split based on managers whose teams weren't supposed to win and those that win a lot. Oakland's Bob Melvin likely will get the votes for taking an unlikely contender the farthest, while Boston's Alex Cora and New York's Aaron Boone will get votes for winning a lot as first-time managers, albeit both handed very good teams. But Rays manager Kevin Cash deserves some attention for what he did, navigating through a revolving roster stripped of veterans, extensive injuries and implementing an innovative pitching system.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: 3B Matt Duffy has a pretty good foundation for a case, given that his comeback is from missing all of last season with injury. The field is always hard to define, but the Rays trading LHP Jonny Venters to the Braves should push him to the NL side of the award.

Short stops

* The Rays tend to not do things, like pick up options, before they have to, which typically makes good business sense. So it will be interesting to see if they reward manager Kevin Cash by picking up his 2020-21 two-year option (or working on an extension) at the end of this season, wait until the spring or let him go into 2019.

* The market for young players signing long-term below-market deals seems to have changed, which could make it tougher for the Rays if they try to lock up LHP Blake Snell, who will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2020.

Rays rumblings

At $1 million, Kevin Cash is 21st among managers by salary per USA Today, tied with the Dodgers' Dave Roberts and Padres' Andy Green, ahead of, among others, the Rangers' Jeff Banister ($950,000), Nationals' Davey Martinez ($850,000), Red Sox's Alex Cora ($800,000). … There's talk of switching the Trop next season to LED lights, which can be flashed or turned off briefly as part of the game-day presentation, as in some other stadiums. … With only around $30 million committed for next season, the Rays will, in theory, have some money to spend. A big bat would seem most needed, but a frontline starting pitcher to join LHP Blake Snell and RHP Tyler Glasnow could be an interesting option. … Per former Rays/current Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey, "Kevin Cash warrants manager of the year consideration and Joe (Maddon) absolutely does as well.'' … Trying to engage more with the multi-cultural Miami community, the Marlins will have a designated area next season where "musical instruments, flags and more will be welcome and encouraged.'' … The Rays went weeks without being able to find a team to take SS Adeiny Hechavarria, then he gets dealt twice in August, from the Rays to the Pirates, and Pirates to Yankees. The Rays got a pitcher (Class A RHP Matt Seelinger) back since they included cash in their deal, so now are essentially paying Hechavarria to play for the Yankees.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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